Where The Hell Have You Been?: Bahamadia

posted February 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 10 comments

B.B. King, the extraordinary Blues player, would travel near and far, east and west of the Mississippi River, hitting cities in the United States, carrying his guitar on his back and singing songs with the passion of Billie Holidays "Strange Fruit" and with the conviction of a preacher. The devoted guitarist would strike chords that magically turned him into a village guru, through his storytelling skills that displayed his heartbroken days of being with Lucille (his guitar,) in his realm of freedom.

The original creation that is thankful to God (the break down of her name) would one day be inspired by one out of 15 thousand of Kings performance and would name her second album, B.B. Queen after his genius. Similar to the Blues legend, the Hip Hop artist by the name of Bahamadia would turn her music, into a reflection of her soul and a resemblance of her spirits.

Lyrics, passion and dedication would turn Antonia Reed of Philadelphia into one of the most colorfully complex, yet most respected female emcees of all time. With an Arabic inspired tag name (Bahamadia or badia hamdallah,) her love for the art and her devotion to creating truthful music, shes managed to stay relevant. In 14 years shes managed to land a production deal under Guru (of Gang Starr), travel in each point of the world and has somehow balanced the art of motherhood.

Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop and Soul would create a smooth tranquil mezcla that would help create vibes that were similar to those of Philadelphias arena. With Dillas featured production, Premiers scratches, The Roots' support and her true affection for the culture, Bahamadia is one of the '90s honorable mentions.

You thought you would never hear from her again, prior to her 2006s Good Rap Music- even then you were wrong. Just like B.B. King, the queen can be found rocking stages in other countries, spittin rhymes in local festivals across the country or even on HipHopDX.

This month, we talk to Bahamadia in homage of the strings on Kings guitar to the voice that brings the mic chord alive, in order to discuss her current projects and to embrace her legacy. Bahamadia is here, not as a female emcee but as a beautifully human musician. Just like B.B. King.

HipHopDX: Let people know what youve been doing lately outside of Philadelphia, and describe your satisfaction with touring.
Basically, people havent seen me, since Ive been missing from the mainstream part of the media and music business. Ive been touring the world, over in Europe- you name it, Ive been there. Just producing and writing as well. Im content with path that my career has taken because Ive been in control of my destiny business-wise. Its been the scenic route because I refuse to comprise my integrity, for a buck or whatever. It's all good, Ive been working consistently with only two albums out as a professional recording artist, so thats good money - especially with the image Ive been portraying.

DX: Being that you spend a lot of time on the road, how does travel and experience assist your lyrics or influence your content and delivery?
It's definitely broadened my perspectives just going and exploring different cultures and peoples' takes on it. With the influences that my music has had on them, it can be taken different depending on the way that the individual processes information and translate it. Its a spiritual process. Now youre going into what your music translates into. These people barely understand English, and youre going to another country and they know word-for-word, and they can tell you in broken language what you were trying to say and they can convey those messages. That right there is real awesome to me. Its humbling too.

I dont know about nobody else, but when I first started off in the industry, my reasons for doing what I do is totally different from the reason why I do it now. It changes with time and it evolves. Now its about impacting lives and being an inspiration for people to be the people that the creator wanted them to be. You know?

DX: Word. In an interview you were quoted as saying, "It depends on the emcee's background and what your understanding or what your interpretation of the music is and what part you choose to play. As for me, I'm just trying to keep myself under wraps." Since 2001, has your interpretation of music changed and what role do you choose to play?
I dont recall ever saying that last part, but if I did, I think I as trying to say that I try to police my own actions because I know that there is somebody always watching. When you're in the public eye and no matter what level you might be on, somebody is always watching. You take on the role of a role model whether you want to accept that responsibility or not. From that standpoint, I try to be very conscious that what I say and do is impacting lives, even in my immediate circle and influence. Then being a parent, I had to definitely be cautious of the steps that I took in my career, because Im a representation of what a woman is supposed to be about and a mother to my children. That was my primary focus back then, and it still is now.

Its a lot of responsibility, especially after you receive a revelation about what your responsibility is, in regarding that. I didnt want to accept that responsibility fully or didnt know how to maneuver through that responsibly, so I got grounded spiritually. Thats what I meant back then or thats what I mean now, at least.

DX: Youre right, people are always watching. Youve worked with Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah and other well-respected females in Hip Hop. As a femcee, do you feel like your have a responsibility to project a certain image for women across the globe?
Ive worked with Heather B, Latifah, and I havent had the privilege of working with Roxanne Shante, but I cant remember all the people. Its nice though. I do feel like I have a responsibility to be true to who I am as an individual. I feel like I have a responsibility to translate what I see as truth, with the best of my ability with what I have been given by the grace of God, to do. I know thats my position. If other people that are watching people feel like what Im doing is right and they want to follow that, than I welcome it. If its a positive thing, Ill honor it. I cant take responsibility for that because that comes from God.

DX: Youve been mentioned as one of the best female emcees of all time, if not the best, a lyrical beast by countless Hip Hop heads in recent debates. Do you agree or disagree?
I feel like... Im effective at what I do. Im unique in that, what I bring to the table, as far as the way I present myself lyrically, is only what Ive been blessed to do. Everybody has an equal contribution to Hip Hop and what they bring to the culture, overallespecially when its coming from an honest place. As far as me being a beast, I dont consider myself as being a beast, I consider myself as being a miracle. You know what I mean?

I dont mean that to be arrogant but I know where I came from, and those humble beginnings and being able to do this professionally and still be relevant to somebody up to this point, is something bigger than rap. Me as a person can never contribute. But, I dont mean to be wordy.

DX: Nah, youre good. What do you say to women in Hip Hop who are frustrated being mentioned in that conversation versus being mentioned in more conversations that eliminate glass ceilings and open the doors for women to be compared to men?
I feel like us as women, our gender should be secondary to our skills or our gifts. I dont know though, because when Im making songs, Im not saying that Im a chick. Im making songs that are saying that Im excited to make music that Ive been blessed to do. I hope that there are people who are being inspired to change their lives and change them in a positive way. Thats how I be looking at it. With that, I dont think anybody can compare himself or herself to me because Im one of one. Anybody that knows who they are spiritually understands that. If you an individual arent any competition whether its male or female.

Nobody is ever going to be able to do what I do. Nobody is ever going to be able to do what Lauryn do, what Lyte do. If youre coming from a genuine place in your heart, who can beat you at being you? When you're secure with yourself and have knowledge of who you are, aint no competition because Im in my own lane. Any up and coming artist, whether it's male or female, get a spiritual understanding of who you are and what your purpose in life is and just stay in your lane.

DX: As you might already know, theres a population of the new generation of Hip Hop listeners who reject the big words, the extended vocabulary or the complex concepts-or what some would consider to be back pack rap. What do you say to the group of listeners that thinks that; this form of rhyming is played out?
I say, to each its own. You grow and you evolve. Im not the same person I was, when I came in the industry over a decade ago. Through travel and experience, and learning who I am and learning how to navigate my gifts as a songwriter and a performer, I was able to change tremendously. I can say this, that when your goal is to impact lives and to sell units, you do have to make your music digestible to the majority of people, that youre targeting to support you.

You can still get your words off in a creative way and still be effective. Especially if you have a whole project to do and you have 12 to 15 tracks to do you. You can do two or three tracks for somebody else in a simplified way, without compromising your integrity. Kanye is an example of that. Jay-Z is an example of that.

DX: Three solo albums, several Hip Hop classic tracks and countless verses that can be considered, amazing. What more can you do or say, in regards to achieving your goals?
What more can I say? Well, Im not a fortune-teller or nothing, but I can tell you what Ive been able to overcome in the last six or seven years. Im transparent in my music, so whatever I go through in my life, it reflects in my music. Im always growing and evolving as a person. Every time I come out with a project, you get where I currently am, as an individual.

As far as being a businesswoman, Im getting my record label off the ground, B-Girl Freedom Records and I just hope to expand into some heavy production and song placements and stuff like that. I got a couple other business ventures Im interested in, yet I dont want to disclose them until their finalized.

DX: Let people know about your relationship with Gang Starr, both Guru and DJ Premier.
Um, my relationship with Gang Starr was strictly business relationship between us, to be honest with you and more specifically Guru because I was signed to his production company Ill Kid Records. Thats where I got my first national release, which was the Kollage project. With Premier, the relationship came with him producing on my project or seeing him around and Guru doing shows and stuff like that, whenever I would build a share with them.

I met them the same way. I met Premier and Guru, in the studio at D&D back in the day. We all just had a synergy; we were all on the same page, being that we were all under the same umbrella. It was a fun time and I really appreciate that Guru gave me an opportunity that a lot of people didnt get at the time. It was, what it was. It was just a business situation. We're all on good terms. I just havent seen them in years.

DX: Youve worked with some pretty impressive deejays including Premier, DJ Statik and people might not know that DJ Drama was your deejay for quite some time. Lets talk about the importance of the deejay in creating the perfect Hip Hop experience. I dont think a lot of dudes can spin anymore.
Ive worked with DJ Liz, DJ Jazz, and [DJ] Cash Money. Ive worked with a lot of prominent deejays. DJ Ran gave me my first break. Philadelphia used to be known in the beginning stages in Hip Hop for our deejays and were still known for that innovation, precision and soul. To work with any of those people it was an honor and humbling experience for me. For me, it meant that there was a mutual respect there, regarding our craft. People aint gon' just holla at you on an A list level if you aint got what it takes. I wouldnt wanna surround myself with nobody thats lame either.

Regarding Drama, our history goes way back because our families are really close and I actually gave him his start as a deejay as somebody who was a recording artist before he got down with T.I. We toured together and I used to do all his mixtapes when they were on cassette [tapes], back in the day [with] me and The Roots or whatever. It's good to see people flourishing, its important to me and its inspiring to me, to be connected to somebody at one point in time and see them reach their full potential. Even if mine hasnt fully manifested yet, I feel like Im connected to that success. You know what Im saying? Its good money.

DX: Dope. Describe your experience growing up in Philadelphia and being exposed to Hip Hop.
Hip Hop was more like a saving grace for me because I was introverted coming up. I was a loner until I got into my teenage or pre-teen years and thats when I got popular in the streets. I had my days when I was running with people that werent doing anything constructive with their time. I went through that period, like most youth. I got into music and hooked up with production-company through a childhood friend. At the company, I was introduced to the art of recording and stuff like that and the rest is history.

I came up in the old school, when they were still having parties in the park and dollar house parties and stuff like that. I really had a genuine experience of what the beginning stages of the culture were all about. From that standpoint, it was cool. We [are] in a different time now and that will always be a part of my heart and it helped develop who I am, artistically. On that same token, I know were in an information age. I have to evolve with the times and revamp who I am with the times.

DX: Let the people know what youre currently working on and where they can possibly find you or your music.
I got some stuff coming up in Vancouver. You know, I travel extensively abroad. Im doing a tour in Europe with Jaguar Wright, Hezekiah and the rest of the band. The Black Lilly Festival in Philly, Im excited about because I havent performed at home in years. Thats in May. They can catch me on the Myspace [click here]. My website is currently under construction. Im doing everything by myself, so its a slow process. I want it be done right, but thats whatever. Im working on Real Rap DVD and CD, with new Bahamadia music and exclusives. Im doing stuff with Johnny Dangerous and King Britt. You know I do progressive music too. Electronic music is a step above in the attic.

DX: If you had to pick one or two of the more promising emcees in Hip Hop who would you pick? Who is Bahamadia looking out for?
I don't know whos doing all that. I still listen to Nas. I dig Young Chris from State Property. Thats who Im checking for now and um, Kanye [West]. Consequence. Thats like four people but I know you said two. My bad.

DX: [Laughing] Its all good. Speaking of Nas, how do you feel about Nas potential Nigger album?
The title of the album? Im sure he had some reason or marketing strategy for naming it that. I believe in Freedom of Speech and he can name his album whatever he wants to name it. I dont know why its such a controversy. We have so many things we could be focusing on, in society right now besides what somebodys calling their album.

DX: Is there anything you want to say?
I just want the people to know that Jesus is Lord and thank y'all for being open minded enough to want to know what Bahamadia is doing and saying right now, old and newcomers. Thats whats up

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